- Cluster participation in BSR Innovation express project «Enhancing market competitiveness in food SME’s-new methodologies and better interaction (EMCF)» in November 2015.
Project partners: Food Network (DK), Ideon Agro Food (SE), Latvian Food Bioeconomy Cluster (LV). Food and drink manufacturers from 3 cluster companies – Valmiermuiža beer, Very Berry juices and Felici muesli, and a cluster facilitator participated in the project and had an opportunity to learn about Danish and Swedish food market and to explore Danish and Swedish experience in product development, positioning and product advancement to gain new ideas for new products. Latvian food and drink professionals worked on new taste and product development together with professional chefs and experts in areas of taste, consumer experience, beverages and gastronomy. In the facilities of Agro Tech Foodture lab (DK), companies were able to attend joint meetings and product presentations with similar profile companies from Denmark and Sweden, work in international groups and develop new product concepts and also present them and get a valuable feedback from chefs, experts and other companies from Denmark and Sweden. Gained knowledge, contacts, experience and inspirations are already put to good use in all participating companies, after the Project. Companies have started the development of new, innovative taste solutions for their products, and are considering several options about new product development in the future. Collaboration with Agro Tech and Ideon Agro food has been strong already before, and this particular Project showed that such collaboration is very beneficial for food SME’s and allows them to tap into new knowledge and expertise that can greatly help them advance their competitiveness.
The participation in the project has created an ongoing collaboration among several cluster companies and experts from Nordic countries, and the project itself has proved to be of great value to the cluster companies, and has received a great feedback from participants, especially from company “Verry Berry”:
«The presentations held in Foodture Lab gave us a good insight in the tendencies of the Danish and Swedish markets that helped us to understand several new product lines that we could produce in the nearest future. We were introduced with scientists researching the same products that we work with, with the possibilities that they can offer us. We also have already consulted one of them and received an immeasurable advice that otherwise would cost us a lot of money. We have offered also our plantation to them as a field of tests in case they would be working with any of the cultures we grow.
We worked in a Foodture Lab, where we invented new products, analysed their potential and at the moment our company is working closely with scientists in Estonia to start producing a unique product of functional food that is already available, but we are working on techniques that might lower the product price as well as help us to convert food waste into a meaningful product. We got to know other Danish and Swedish companies that work in the same type of business as we do. Even today, we are communicating with some of them in the means of exchange of experience. The experience in the project for us was meaningful and we are trying to take all that experience and turn it into new products.
Ilze Sauskina, Marketing Manager, Very Berry
- Cluster and four its companies (Valmiermuiža beer, Very Berry juices, Smiltene Cider brewery, Valmiera organize - pumpkin processers) were involved in Leonardo da Vinci programme project: «Vidzeme ecologic beverage manufacturers' internship in France» (October 2013) .
Project was implemented in cooperation with the General Council of Lower Rhine, France. In preparing for the internship, the participants learned the basics of French language and improved their knowledge of French culture in order to be well prepared for their 2 weeks stay in France – a week in Alsace region where they specialized in juice making methods and a week in Normandy region where they studied cider brewing techniques. That gave the participants a good insight in the French ecological drink market and the French consumer preferences. Company representatives learned new technologies of cider and juice production from French companies, established new business contacts, visited several factories and met representatives from various industry associations. The acquired knowledge was afterwards presented to other cluster companies in a joint workshop, and it has been put to continuous use in several companies. For example Ltd. Smiltenes sidra darītava – Cider brewery, started implementing new production methods - the Normandy’s cider method has been tried on new harvests after the project. Ltd. Very Berry started planning to develop a new export product line. The internship has encouraged discussions inside the food cluster on the necessity of a larger involvement from the researchers in order to improve the product quality especially in the berry and fruit areas. This project fostered the establishment of internal working group in the cluster for drinks manufacturers, and involved several discussions among companies and researchers from two Latvian universities and institutes.
After the project, companies have used gained knowledge to developed and launch into market several new products - beverages, using gained know how from France. Product lines are still being developed and new types of beverages have been launched into market in 2015, and 2016. One particular product line is the distilled beer (Degalus), produced by the Valmiermuiža brewery. Distilled beer is a unique product in Latvia, and is a high end product, aimed at the restaurants. The product is being developed and marketed as a Latvian high quality alternative to Calvados or Grappa. The investments for this new product line (development of recipes and specified production machinery) amounted for 50 000 EUR in 2015. The product was also awarded a best packaging brand award by the Latvian packaging association in 2015. Several new variations of the distilled beer are planned for autumn and winter seasons of 2016 and 2017.
- Cluster board member companies recognized by the Swedish business Awards
All three companies forming the board of the cluster (Aloja Starkelsen, Valmiermuiža Brewery, Felici) have been among Swedish Business awards finalists granting cluster a wide recognition as a successful network of competitive and growing companies. Swedish business awards is an initiative coordinated by the Swedish embassies, Business Sweden, National governments and investment agencies, and high calibre companies such as Volvo, Ericson etc. It is a high level event that recognizes the business development success stories in Baltic countries. The Swedish business awards is an annual event (2016 marks its 8th year) that takes place each year in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The event serves as an annual platform for discussions and a source of ideas and inspiration for entrepreneurship, sustainable business as well as responsibility towards environment and society. The cluster is annually nominating its member companies for the award, and is currently the only cluster in Latvia, that has all key board companies of the cluster, as a finalists of this respectable award. Participation of cluster and companies In the event, and recognition award to cluster companies, have helped them establish closer cooperation with other companies and organisations, such as Swedish trade and investment council and Swedish chamber of commerce, and has also created larger brand recognition of the cluster and its companies, especially in Sweden, which is one of the top target markets of cluster and is the country with which several cooperation projects and initiatives have been developed for the cluster since 2011.
- In October 2012, Latvian Food Bioeconomy Cluster (then in the form of a network - Vidzeme Food Cluster ) received a training course on cluster development from one of the world’s leading experts in the field: Mr. Ifor Ffowcs Williams (CEO of „Cluster Navigators”) and cluster development is constantly following his „5 stage, 12 step „ cluster development process formula.